Subjunctive: Irregular Conjugations

Subjonctif : conjugaisons irrégulières

The subjunctive conjugations for many otherwise irregular verbs are regular, but not all. Stem-changing verbs and what I like to call very, extremely, or ridiculously irregular verbs have irregular subjunctive conjugations.

Stem-changing verbs

Stem-changing verbs have a two-stem subjunctive conjugation. The present tense third person plural (ils) conjugation provides the stem for singular as well as third person plural subjunctive conjugations (just as it does for regular verbs), the upshot of which is that the stem change occurs in these conjugations. The stem for the first and second person plural is based on the present tense first person plural (nous) conjugation.

  lever jeter essayer
present tense:  ils  lèvent jettent essayer
  stem  lèv- jett- essai-
subjunctive endings      
… que je / j’ -e lève jette essaie
… que tu -es lèves jettes essaies
… qu’il/elle/on -e lève jette essaie
… qu’ils/elles -ent lèvent jettent essaient
         
present tense:  nous  levons jetons essayons
  stem  lev- jet- essay-
subjunctive endings   
… que nous -ions levions jetions essayions
… que vous -iez leviez jetiez essayiez

Very irregular verbs

Very irregular verbs*  follow this same two-stem pattern:

  devoir prendre tenir
present tense:  ils  doivent prennent tiennent
  stem  doiv- prenn- tienn-
subjunctive endings      
… que je -e doive prenne tienne
… que tu -es doives prennes tiennes
… qu’il/elle/on -e doive prenne tienne
… qu’ils/elles -ent doivent prennent tiennent
         
present tense:  nous  devons prenons tenons
  stem  dev- pren- ten-
subjunctive endings   
… que nous -ions devions prenions tenions
… que vous -iez deviez preniez teniez

* As opposed to irregular verbs that have regular subjunctive conjugations.

Extremely irregular verbs

Seven extremely French verbs have irregular subjunctive stems but take the same endings. Of these, faire, pouvoir, and savoir have a single subjunctive stem, while aller, valoir, and vouloir have two: one for the singular and the third person plural conjugations, and the other for the first and second person plural:

  faire pouvoir savoir   aller valoir vouloir
stems    fass- puiss- sach-   aill- / all- vaill- / val- veuill- / voul-
… que je / j’   fasse puisse sache   aille vaille veuille
… que tu   fasses puisses saches   ailles vailles veuilles
… qu’il/elle/on   fasse puisse sache   aille vaille veuille
… que nous   fassions puissions sachions   allions valions voulions
… que vous   fassiez puissiez sachiez   alliez valiez vouliez
… qu’ils/elles   fassent puissent sachent   aillent vaillent veuillent

As an impersonal verb, falloir has only one subjunctive conjugation: … qu’il faille.

Ridiculously irregular verbs

Of course, the ridiculously irregular verbs avoir and être remain true to form in the subjunctive, with two irregular stems as well as irregular endings:

    avoir   être   
… que je / j’   aie   sois
… que tu   aies   sois
… qu’il/elle/on   ait   soit
… que nous   ayons   soyons
… que vous   ayez   soyez
… qu’ils/elles   aient   soient

Subjunctive Quiz

Think you’ve got it? Test yourself on the French subjunctive with this fill-in-the-blank exercise: Changement de programme

Note: You must be logged into your Progress with Lawless French account to take this test. If you don’t have one, sign up – it’s free!

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